News that will come to no surprise to many single people out there: they seek work-life balance too!
In fact, according to recent research from Michigan State University, single employees without caring responsibilities in the home face pressures at home very similar to their married/coupled/parent colleagues.
Just like their colleagues, they report having insufficient time to address their non-work life:
“People in the study repeatedly said I can take care of my job demands, but then I have no time for working out, volunteering in my community, pursuing friendships or anything else,” said Ann Marie Ryan, MSU professor of psychology and study co-author.
This should remind us that all employees, regardless of demographic status, have a non-work life filled with demands and personal goals. If employers pigeon-hole single (or non-parent) employees as having more free time outside of work, this can lead to an unfair distribution of labour, as they end up working late to cover for colleagues who have to leave on time to address childcare issues.
Something that I’ve argued for over the past several years has been a view of work-life balance (and the flexibility required) that encompasses all employees, regardless of status. Organisations that base their flexible working policies rigidly on the flexible working legislation inevitably only target those employees covered by the legislation.
Take, for example, an employee who is single and without children and wants to leave work early to train for a triathlon, Ryan said. Should that employee have any less right to leave early than the one who wants to catch her child’s soccer game at 4 p.m.?
“Why is one more valued than the other?” Ryan said. “We have to recognize that non-work roles beyond family also have value.”
And while some research points to non-parent employees appreciating this flexibility for their colleagues – indeed, even vicariously experiencing job satisfaction because of it – surely they would be even more appreciative of a truly flexible approach to work that included them?
Wendy Casper and colleagues (previously discussed on this blog) have specifically researched the working experience of single and child-free employees and found that a more singles-friendly work culture predicted lower intention to leave the organisation and higher commitment to the organisation.
Flexibility shouldn’t be viewed as a zero-sum game. In other words, flexibility for one group of employees shouldn’t cancel out flexibility for another.
Reference: Casper, W.J., Weltman, D. & Kwesiga, E. (2007). Beyond family-friendly: The construct and measurement of singles-friendly work culture. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 70: 478-501
I have conducted research on employees with significant non-family commitments outside the workplace (like the triathlete described in the Ryan quote above). Like these researchers, I also found that these employees felt less positively about their organizations if they felt that the organizations valued their non-family commitments less than the family commitments of their co-workers. I also found that employers consistently rated non-family commitments outside of work as a less important reason for time off than family commitments. So I completely agree with what you’re suggesting. Great post!
Many thanks, Fiona!
I strongly believe that acknowledging employees’ non-work lives, regardless of demographic status, is key to facilitating work-life balance.